Monday, May 10, 2010

Dry Against The Rain

The Terror Wars continue as our propaganda system tries to keep us afraid, off-balance, skittish. Given the coverage of the dud car bomb in Times Square, you'd think we were under siege, every unattended shopping bag or water cooler a potential mini-nuke. Of course, our dying empire needs all the fear and obedience it can muster. A tough task in an apolitical culture that thrives on immediate sensation. Would-be bombs frighten only so much: the boy who cried jihad. Serious bloodletting puts all on the same patriotic page. It also boosts cable news ratings. Such are American rallying points.

For all the clamor over Pakistani Taliban plots, you have to wonder: Is it so difficult to blow up a van? In a nation legally armed to the teeth, with underground markets for heavier munitions, how does a zealot fail to realize maximum firepower? Poor people in Iraq and Afghanistan have no problem wiring car bombs, IEDs and EFPs that lethally deliver. What's the deal stateside?

Maybe we're lucky. Maybe domestic bomb makers are clumsy amateurs. Maybe the FBI thwarts them (which, if true, suggests that this is more a police problem than a military one). Maybe these near-bombs are false flag operations. Maybe it's the fates. All this or none of this may be the case. One thing's for certain -- we're doing the bulk of the killing. All the jumping on chairs and lifting skirts over this or that potential attack cannot hide this grisly fact, though it can be ignored. And if nothing else, we Americans are experts at ignoring what is breathing in our face. Our silence over the corporate class war at home is a sterling example of this. If you refuse to confront domestic criminals who are robbing you, then why would you care about slaughtering people overseas?

Should a wanna-bomber succeed in turning Times Square or any public square into a killing ground, public passivity will boil swiftly to nationalist rage, with calls for revenge and kindred spasms. Our police state will further tighten, and worse, airports will become even more unbearable. Getting to the root of the madness will be the furthest thing from the public-media mind (though some gung-ho liberals are giving it a Yankee Doodle go, adding to the diversion). But that's the joy of being an American -- putting faith in fantasies. If only the Terror Wars came with 3D glasses. It would be almost life-like.

Betty White's SNL gig was predictably dreadful, the writers unable to get past their fascination with cheap sex/queer gags. White was clearly game, an old pro hitting her marks. But man, it was embarrassing watching her utter such dead lines, the Naughty Granny angle beaten to a pulp. Performing in NYC's club scene has exposed me to this mindset. Most comics I've shared stages with spout pretty much the same material, so seeing it on SNL makes perfect sense. Still, I'd hate to think that this represents a generation's comedy. Here we could use some real mad bombers, empty premises blown to piercing bits.

I talked with Betty White on The Golden Girls set long ago. She remarked on my youth (26 looking 15), winked to accent points, and had a flirty edge to her demeanor. I could see why Allen Ludden, among countless others, loved her. I didn't confess my sexual fantasies of her from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, but it was sweet to feel her heat point blank. Oh Betty -- if only I wrote for you last week. My cheap sex jokes would have meaning.